Battle for the Suburbs

Mondaire Jones condemns Bowman’s Israel rhetoric, endorses George Latimer

Jones said he’s heard frequently from Jewish constituents ‘horrified’ by Bowman’s rhetoric which ‘has contributed to the fearfulness that American Jews are feeling’

Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Just Majority

WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK - APRIL 30:  Mondaire Jones speaks at the "Just Majority" Supreme Court Reform Press Conference With Gun Violence Prevention Advocates on April 30, 2023 in White Plains, New York.

Former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), running to reclaim his former Hudson Valley seat in Congress, disavowed Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) on Monday over Bowman’s rhetoric about Israel since Oct. 7, and endorsed George Latimer, the Westchester County executive seeking to oust Bowman.

Jones told Jewish Insider the endorsement, first announced in The New York Times, was driven by Bowman’s rhetoric on Israel and the impact Jones said it has had on the Jewish community in Jones’ own district. Bowman’s and Jones’ districts border one another.

“This is about me standing up for the Jewish community,” Jones said. “I want to be very clear about that.”

Jones said he’s had conversations “all the time” with Jewish residents in the district who are “horrified by his words and actions — it gives them anxiety. And it has contributed to the fearfulness that American Jews are feeling in this very heightened climate of increased hostility towards the Jewish community and Israel.” 

The 16th Congressional District has a considerable Jewish population in Westchester County.

“I will always stand up for my Jewish constituents,” Jones said. “It’s just critically important we rebuke the extremists that some would have take over the Democratic Party.”

He added, “that doesn’t mean that anyone should stop advocating for Palestinian human rights and self-determination — that is clearly not the point I’m making. To do so effectively requires bringing people together. It requires fairness, level-headedness and seriousness.”

Bowman has been among the most outspoken anti-Israel lawmakers since Oct. 7, calling for a cease-fire within days of the attack and denying that Hamas had committed sexual violence and other atrocities. Jewish and pro-Israel constituents in his district helped to recruit Latimer, who is now being backed by millions in pro-Israel outside spending, to challenge him for the seat.

Jones said that several comments and moves by Bowman in the past few months drove him to this point, including Bowman’s denial of sexual assault and, most recently the New York Democratic Socialists of America’s endorsement of Bowman. The New York DSA, Jones noted, promoted a pro-Hamas rally in the days following Oct. 7. 

He also highlighted Bowman’s early calls for a cease-fire “before Israel could even begin to defend itself,” a dynamic he said “holds Israel to a different standard than any other nation in the world.”

Jones said that the endorsement has “been a long time coming” and that “the events of Oct. 7 have made it untenable for our communities in the lower Hudson Valley to stay together in a cohesive way, given the anxiety and the fear that irrational anti-israel forces have produced throughout the state of New York and this country.”

He highlighted that he and Bowman held different views on issues in Middle East politics while they were in office together, including the Abraham Accords, but said he hadn’t discussed Israel policy with Bowman either while they were in office or since Oct. 7. The two traveled to Israel and the West Bank together with J Street, which Jones noted had revoked its endorsement of Bowman.

But he said that he’s hopeful that his “presence in Congress… had a positive influence on some of these people” on the left on Israel policy — ”which is why I need to return to Congress, among other reasons.”

When Jones and Bowman came into office together in 2021 — the first Black men to represent Westchester County in Congress — it was seen as a victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But Bowman was always more pugilistic to the Democratic establishment.

A prominent and frequent attack by Bowman on Latimer and his backers, including AIPAC, has been to accuse them of racism and of employing anti-Black tropes.

Jones said: “What I can say is this: George Latimer is not a racist. He is someone who cares very deeply about racial justice.” 

He said the effort to paint Latimer and his campaign as racist is “completely belied by how people actually feel in our communities and it is intended to distract from a robust debate about policies and actions.”

That sort of endorsement could be helpful for Latimer as he seeks to defuse the attacks from the Bowman camp.

Jones worked under Latimer as an attorney for Westchester County before his time in Congress.

“[Latimer] is someone who understands social justice from a variety of lenses,” Jones said. “And most importantly, is a unifying voice who brings people of various constituencies along, which is why he’s got so much support from within both the Black and Jewish communities.”

In addition to boosting Latimer’s campaign, the endorsement could prove politically useful for Jones, potentially helping to defuse a line of attack from Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), who Jones aims to unseat. Lawler has sought to tie Jones and the deeply controversial Bowman together.

Jones insisted that he’s been “consistent in my staunch support of Israel and the Jewish people,” and noted that Lawler, in 2021, had said Jones was right to not align himself with the progressive Squad, of which Bowman is a member. “My record has been clear and consistent.”

Jones went on to accuse Lawler of failing to call out antisemitism on his own side of the aisle, while Jones said he had been consistent in calling out “the extremes in both my party and the Republican Party.”

In an interview with the New York Post on Monday, Jay Jacobs, the New York State Democratic Party chairman, offered strong praise for Latimer while declining to comment on Bowman — a further sign of Bowman’s collapsing support among the New York Democratic establishment.

Latimer told JI he’s known Jones for years and was proud to support his congressional candidacy.

“We share  the same values, and he has a well-earned reputation for standing up to extremists in both parties and delivering results for the Lower Hudson Valley,” Latimer said, describing Jones as “a strong ally for Israel” among other accomplishments.

“Mondaire is a serious legislator, someone dedicated to commonsense results, and someone we can trust to protect our democracy in these challenging times,” Latimer continued.

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